The old saying that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is indeed applicable to an organization’s safety program. The best way to avoid future accidents is to examine why and how an accident occurred. Only then can you determine effectively how to keep a similar accident from happening again.
A thorough accident investigation should be designed to objectively gather information and not to place blame. Accidents are generally complex incidents in which multiple factors, both indirect and direct, can lead to a failure of people, equipment, or the work environment. An effective investigation should reveal what happened so that new safety protocol or training can be developed from the findings.
The following tips can help you conduct an accident investigation effectively:
- Make sure the site is safe to enter before initiating an investigation.
- Secure the area and do not disturb the scene if it is safe to do so.
- Make sure the individuals involved in the accident get appropriate medical care.
- Following an event, begin the investigation as quickly as possible in order to secure the site and have access to as much information as possible.
- As part of your safety program, define protocol for employees to follow when dealing with an accident site in order to preserve it for investigation.
- Also as part of your safety program, develop accident investigation checklists and guidelines so that the correct protocol is followed.
- Have materials on-hand which would be needed to conduct an investigation should an accident happen. Such materials might include a camera and film or video recorder and blank tapes, protective equipment, notebook and pens, any necessary accident checklists or report forms, containers for preserving evidence, and a measuring tape.
- Identify all possible witnesses and interview them as quickly as possible following the incident, while it’s fresh in their minds. Also interview those who were present prior to the incident or arrived shortly after.
- When conducting an interview, ask questions that will garner a comprehensive picture of the accident, series of events leading to the accident, and surrounding conditions including the condition of any equipment, the weather, instructions from supervisors, and the protocol under which employees were operating.
- Use a camera, video camera or sketches to document the accident site;
- Preserve evidence.
- Analyze all the gathered information to establish exactly how the accident occurred and what steps need to be taken to prevent it from happening in the future.